Sunday, January 07, 2007

Sad thought - human suffering

I'm not sad at the moment, but I was nearly overwhelmed recently when I thought about the volume of cases I see in the courts. I'm not talking about the amount of cases we have. We're quite busy, but that's a good thing for us.

I was just noticing how many people I see in court. In a typical week I might go to a several courts. In a two-day swing I was in Albany City Court - Criminal Part, plus Colonie and Guilderland, and I think one other court.

In each of these courts there might be 100 or more cases going that particular night. Then you start to think ... Guilderland has criminal court one night a week. That means 50 nights times 100 people -- 5000 people a year. Hmm. Colonie has two or three nights a week, with two courtrooms, so that's probably over 10,000 a year. And then you get to Albany. Criminal Part is packed to the gills every day. There are two sessions, morning and afternoon. And there are three courtrooms - though usually no more than two are busy. So maybe that's 50,000 people a year. Many are repeats, or repeat visits on the same offense, but it's still a lot of people. And I'm not including the speeding ticket cases either.

But that isn't what got to me. It was when I started thinking about all the towns and villages across New York State - there are so many places like Rotterdam, Clifton Park, Utica, and so on - and then across the country. I'm not big enough to think globally so I was just overwhelmed by the volume in NY and the US.

All these marijuana cases, petit larcenies, DWIs, assaults, domestic violence, etc. Something is just wrong. Are too many things being brought into criminal courts? Yes, I think so. But even with that, much of what happens is the result of people having some kind of problem. And what gets into the courts is the tip of the iceberg. Our courts are in many ways an indicator of human suffering, and it looks like there's a lot of it going on.

With all my criticisms of judges and prosecutors, etc., I give a lot of credit to them for wading through this tide of human suffering on a daily basis. Public defenders too. It's not nearly as hard on me as it must be on all of them.

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